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Causes of a herniated nucleus pulposus — excess body weight

One of the leading causes of a herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) and other spine conditions is excess body weight. This condition can also be caused by factors such as age and injury, but weight is significant because it is controllable by most patients through proper weight management.

Although it doesn’t always cause symptoms, HNP can be very debilitating if it results in a compressed nerve, making it hard to engage in even simple tasks like preparing a meal or working in the yard. Whether you are trying to prevent or treat this condition, making the lifestyle choices necessary to maintain a healthy weight can have many benefits.

What is HNP?

Herniated nucleus pulposus is a condition affecting the spinal discs, which cushion the vertebrae in the spinal column. To absorb the pressure of upper body weight and movement, the disc is made of two parts:

  • The annulus fibrosus — which is the tough outer shell that gives the disc its strength and shape
  • The nucleus pulposus — which is the inner disc material that gives the disc its height and flexibility

Age, injury and other factors like weight can cause the annulus fibrosus to weaken and potentially tear. When this happens, pressure from the surrounding vertebrae can cause the nucleus pulposus to push through this weak spot or tear, resulting in a herniated nucleus pulposus. Symptoms can result from both local irritation and compression of a nerve by the herniated disc material.

How does excess body weight contribute?

The spinal anatomy is designed to support the weight of the body while allowing for the full range of motion required from the neck and back. When an individual is overweight, the burden of supporting additional body mass takes a toll on the spinal anatomy. This can cause additional pressure to be transferred to the discs and other parts, eventually damaging them.

By engaging in a weight loss plan involving healthy diet and exercise to both strengthen core muscles and improve cardiovascular health, patients can take pressure off their spinal discs, which can both prevent and treat conditions like a herniated nucleus pulposus.

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated nucleus pulposus and are considering surgery because weight management and other conservative treatments have not relieved symptoms, contact USA Spine Care. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, resulting in a shorter recovery time comparatively.^

We are happy to offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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